Tan Kin Lian says he will take things easy, spend more time with grandkids after conceding defeat
Former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian said he expected to do much better in the presidential election than the 13.88 per cent of the vote he garnered, and that he will now heed his family’s advice to enjoy his retirement.
Mr Tan, a second-time presidential candidate, looked slightly tired on returning to his home at about 10.15pm on Friday, after having visited eight counting centres.
Earlier in the evening, his family and about two dozen supporters had gathered at his Yio Chu Kang home to await the election result. But the mood was solemn by the time the Elections Department announced the sample count result at 10.40pm, with Mr Tan in third place with 14 per cent of the vote.
Emerging from his home shortly after 11pm, Mr Tan, 75, congratulated Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam for having taken 70 per cent of the vote in the sample count, and acknowledged the former senior minister’s “overwhelming lead as of now”.
Reading off a script from his phone, Mr Tan said in English, Mandarin and Malay: “I wish him all the best in meeting the challenges ahead, and I hope he will be able to help bring a better life for the people.”
Wearing a brave smile while delivering his short statement, Mr Tan said he would now heed his family’s advice “to take life easy, and live a normal life”.
“I will spend more time with my grandchildren,” he said as his wife, Madam Tay Siew Hong, 67, smiled and nodded behind him. “In my free time, I will continue to do my part in voicing the hardship and aspirations of the people through other channels. Thank you and goodbye.”
Asked if he was officially conceding the race, Mr Tan said he would concede defeat when the final result was confirmed.
“But Mr Tharman has certainly got an overwhelming lead as of now,” he said. “So I would think that he deserves my congratulations.”
Mr Tan said he expected to do much better in the election than he achieved, but that things are uncertain in an election. As to why he secured a lower vote share, Mr Tan said he could not say.
“I would not know, so I think we will have to reflect upon that,” he said.
Shortly after, his gathered supporters – including political opposition figures such as Mr Lim Tean and Mr Tan Jee Say – started to leave the house, with most looking dejected or expressing their disappointment.
The day had clearly not shaped up as Mr Tan had expected it to.
On Friday morning, he had cast his vote at Anderson Serangoon Junior College with his wife, son Tan Boon Keng and daughter-in-law Clara Wong, before going around the island to visit various polling stations.
“Somehow, I find that most of the people know me, and they are very warm – from all races, not just the Chinese, but the Malays and Indians also know me,” he said.
He added: “I was just surprised that I was quite well known among the minority races.”
Mr Tan said he woke at 4am, and was overwhelmed with phone messages thanking him for putting himself up for election.
But Mr Tan’s campaign has not been without some controversies that had likely hurt his performance.
Early on in the race, he drew flak for social media posts made over the years that referenced “pretty girls”, which were seen by some as objectifying women.
He initially accused his opponents and the ruling People’s Action Party of orchestrating a “smear campaign” against him, before eventually apologising for his remarks near the tail end of campaigning to those offended by his posts.
Days after the Writ of Election was issued, Mr Tan publicly stated that he would step aside if businessman George Goh qualified to run, as he did not want to split the non-establishment vote.
This came after Mr Goh rebuffed attempts by Mr Tan to have the two decide between them who would be the sole non-establishment candidate.
Mr Tan’s race to the Istana also divided opinion as his campaign platform hinged on policy issues, and he promised to use the prestige of the office to influence government policies on jobs and housing, and bringing down the cost of living.
Several opposition figures also threw their support behind him, even though the president must be above party politics and has no executive role on legislation or to guide government policy.
They included his rivals in the 2011 Presidential Election: Progress Singapore Party chairman Tan Cheng Bock and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member Tan Jee Say.
Other opposition leaders such as Peoples Voice chief Lim Tean, Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam, and SDP chief Chee Soon Juan also expressed their support for Mr Tan.
On Friday evening, Mr Tharman said he had tried calling Mr Tan after the sample count result was announced, but could not get a reply.
Shortly after 12.20am, the official result put Mr Tan’s vote share at 13.88 per cent, while Mr Tharman emerged victorious with 70.4 per cent of the vote. Mr Ng Kok Song received 15.72 per cent.
While the outcome was a disappointment to him, Mr Tan outdid his first presidential bid in the 2011 election, where he took 4.91 per cent of the votes and lost his deposit of $48,000.
Mr Tan’s principal election agent, Mr Prabu Ramachandran, said the result was clear, and that Mr Tan would not be making further comments.
Asked if Mr Tan had officially conceded defeat, he did not answer but said that “it had been a long day for all of us” and urged the media to go home for “some well-deserved rest”.